Happy St. George’s Day to all those celebrating the national holiday here in England. Also, to Greece, Portugal, Russia, to name just a few other countries who also share St. George as a patron saint. St. George himself may have been born in Asia Minor and joined the Roman army… so a real global hero, as far as we know. In fact, very little at all is known about him, the persecution of his Christian beliefs, his fate under Emperor Diocletian and even his name. But why let facts get in the way of a good story? Certainly fighting the dragon should be interpreted metaphorically, we hope.
The less we know for certain about a person, the more we can hang our hopes and dreams on their mysterious (and hopefully broad) shoulders. Just look at the allure of Nick Clegg over the past week or so!
I think it is charming to retell old legends that maintain the mystery of a person that symbolises so much to so many people (I am referring to St. George again here, rather than the LibDem leader): chivalry, courage, defending the weak, even patron saint of farmers for some strange reason. Finding out more about the ‘real’, historical St. George can only be a let down.
However, when discovering a new culture or country, I think ‘myth-making’ and maintaining a mystique of difference and impenetrability is not helpful. I have read enough bad science about how we can never hope to understand the heart of Japan, the soul of India, the Russian spirit… No, we are not all the same underneath it all, but we can listen to, communicate with, learn from each other. And even if the difference will always be there (after all, am I not different from my parents, my children, my husband?), we can still respect and love each other, even without the mystique.
What do you think: is that ‘unknown’ element an essential part of the attraction of a person or culture or country?